Dwelling Units

Accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, are a way for homeowners to maintain their existing house and create new living quarters on their property. Whether they choose to use it as a guest house, a long term rental, or additional entertainment space, the rise in ADUs have turned them into a statewide phenomenon. We have put together this short guide to help you understand if an ADU will work for your property.

Need more information? Have questions? Give us a call 323-795-0190 or send us an email

What is an ADU?

ADU stands for Accessory Dwelling Unit. Some people also call these guest houses, granny flats or backyard dwelling units.

An ADU is a single attached or detached residence that can be added to properties that have existing single family residences or multifamily buildings. An ADU can be a completely new structure, a converted garage or storage room, or even attached to a portion of the existing residence.

ADUs are a great way to add more housing to California by allowing homeowners to increase the density on their lots. In the past, single family lots weren't zoned for multiple structures, but with this statewide law, this is now possible.

Venn Studio has worked on multiple ADU projects in Los Angeles County. Each city within the county has its own set of rules that govern the size, location, and style of a proposed ADU.

We've put together a short list of questions and answers to describe the ADU rules and process.

ADU attached to an existing garage

ADU attached to an existing garage

What can an ADU be used for?

The housing crisis is top of mind for Californians. The state of California is allowing ADUs to help address the housing shortage. As a part of a smart-growth plan, ADUs are intended for owner occupancy or long term rentals only. Here are some ways our clients are using ADUs:

Rent to a nearby college student, young professional or anyone looking for a long term rental. The rental market in LA is hot!

Keep friends and family close, but not too close...An ADU provides is a nice separate retreat for guests and family members during those longer visits

Shorten the commute, use an ADU as a detached home office right in your backyard.

Use an ADU as an additional indoor/outdoor entertainment space. We’ve designed ADUs to seamlessly integrate with the main house layout while still offering privacy and functionality when needed.

A great space for an onsite caretaker for our elderly clients.

We have designed multiple ADUs for clients that have disabled family members. This allows them to provide an independent living situation that is close by and easy to maintain. These ADU’s are designed to ADA standards (Americans with Disabilities Act) ensuring accessibility and long term use.

When designed properly, an ADU could be a light filled studio perfect for an artist to create. On the flipside, it could be well insulated and sound proofed as an ideal music studio separate from the main house.

What would you use your ADU for? Tell us here.

Detached 1-Bedroom ADU

Detached 1-Bedroom ADU

Compact ADU Kitchen

Compact ADU Kitchen

Where can I put an ADU?

Each lot or jurisdiction is different. We’ve identified a few scenarios and ideal layouts. Things to be aware of:

10’ separation between the ADU and the main residence or any other structure on the property is required.

Must maintain a 4’-0” setback on all sides of an ADU

ADU’s must maintain a safe distance from high voltage power lines. Garages cannot be converted into an ADU if the garage sits directly under a high voltage line. Venn Studio will confirm with the applicable Department of Power to confirm that no conflicts exist.

A single parking space requirement for an ADU is waived if the proposed ADU is within ½ mile of public transportation. Two parking spaces for the main residence must be maintained, but can be uncovered, tandem, or within setbacks. There is flexibility here.

Where could your ADU go? Ask us here.

What are different types of ADUs?

Statewide and local city codes make many different types of ADUs possible depending on your lot. We've identified six different ADU styles based on the most common lot configurations in Los Angeles County.

Build an all new structure up to 1200 s.f.

Convert your existing detached or attached garage into an ADU.

Add square footage to your home and use that as an attached ADU.

Perfect if you want to keep your garage but maximize unused space in your yard.

If you have an attached garage, convert this into an accessory dwelling unit.

Convert an existing room into an ADU with a private entry, kitchenette and bathroom.

What type of ADU would work best for you and your lot? Ask us here!

How big can an ADU be?

The short answer is that ADUs can be up to 1200 square feet. This all depends on your lot condition and type of ADU you want to build.

If it is attached, it can be up to 50% of the size of the existing home. So for a 1000 s.f. house, you could add a 500 s.f. ADU attached to the main residence. An attached ADU needs to have its own seperate entrance and cannot be accessed from inside the main house.

Detached ADUs are maxed out at 1200 square feet in the city of Los Angeles. A 1200 square foot ADU could be two stories, and up two three efficient bedrooms.

ADA sized bathroom

ADA sized bathroom

Efficient ADU Kitchen

Efficient ADU Kitchen

Detached 1-bedroom ADU

Detached 1-bedroom ADU

ADU and existing residence

ADU and existing residence

Two Story Venice Beach ADU

Two Story Venice Beach ADU

What is the ADU permit process like?

Each city within the county has its own set of rules governing the ADU permitting process. Venn Studio has experience in permitting ADUs in many of the local cities.

Send us an email with your address and we can let you know what type of ADU would work best for your lot -

How much does an ADU cost?

We work with expert local contractors who cater to a variety of price points. These contractors understand the importance of budget and timeline, and we like to work closely with them to design ADUs that fit your budget.

How long does it take to build an ADU?

When working with the right contractors, an ADU can take 6-10 months to complete depending on the size, complexity and site conditions. In our experience, we have worked with expert local contractors to help limit the disruption to your daily life. Construction can happen in your backyard while you continue to live in your house.

Are you ready to design and build your ADU?

Give us a call 310-795-0190, or send us an email to start the conversation. We'll help you determine which ADU configuration, size and type is best for you!